Articles Posted in Litigation/Business Trials/Business Lawsuits/Business Litigation

The district court granted summary judgment to a bank on a breach of contract claim where a bank customer was precluded from suing bank for payment of fraudulent checks because customer did not report fraud within 90 days of receiving statement containing copy of first fraudulent check, and account agreement specified that fraud was required to be reported within 90 days.

Designer Direct, Inc. has a bank account with PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. Three of Designer Direct’s officers are authorized signers on its bank account. Between October 2016 and May 2017, Designer Direct’s former office manager, Kristiana Ostojic, forged one of those officers’, Stephen Rebarchak, signature on thirty-nine checks drawn on the account. Each check was made payable either to Ostojic or KO Development. The sum total of the fraudulent checks was $185,421.94

Ostojic deposited each check at either US Bank or JP Morgan Chase. The checks were then eventually presented to PNC for payment and were processed during the normal course of business through an automated system. PNC mailed account statements to Designer Direct each month. Each statement identified checks drawn on the account by date, check number, and amount. PNC also included copies of drawn checks with each statement.

Rebarchak reviewed all of the statements sent by PNC but did not see the electronic check copies because Ostojic intercepted the online statements and removed the check images before he could see them. When Rebarchak did finally see one of the checks, in May 2017, he was immediately aware of the fraud and notified PNC the next day. Designer Direct eventually sued PNC in federal district court in the Northern District of Illinois for breach of contract, alleging that PNC breached the account agreement by failing to exercise ordinary care in the payment of the checks. Continue reading ›

Where a class of consumers sued an energy company for breach of contract, fraud, and unjust enrichment, the district court dismissed some, but not all, of the claims. The district court found that the consumers had sufficiently alleged that the energy company violated its agreement to charge rates for electricity based on market conditions and that the consumers had pled a claim for unjust enrichment in the alternative. However, the court found that the consumers failed to allege adequate details of a fraudulent scheme.

Verde Energy USA, Inc. was sued by a class of consumers in federal court for the Northern District of Illinois. The consumers alleged that Verde violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice Act, breached its contract, or alternatively was guilty of unjust enrichment with respect to the class. The consumers’ complaint alleged that Verde had taken advantage of the deregulation of the Illinois energy market, convincing consumers to switch from their prior energy company to Verde by offering a teaser rate that was lower than the utilities’ actual rates for electricity. The consumers alleged that, after the teaser rate expired, Verde switched consumers to a variable rate that was not based on market conditions as required by the contract the consumers had with Verde. Continue reading ›

Where the mortgage on a development company’s property was mistakenly recorded as satisfied, and then later corrected, the mistaken release did not extinguish the debt, and the contract was still effective.

Trinity 83 Development borrowed $2 million from a bank in return for a mortgage on real property and a note. Five years later, in 2011, the bank sold both the mortgage and the note to ColFin Midwest Funding, who relied on Midland Loan Services to collect the payments due. Two years later, Midland recorded a “satisfaction” document indicating that all debts associated with the note and mortgage had been paid. This recording was in error, as the loan was still outstanding. Unaware of the mistake, Trinity continued making payments on the loan. Continue reading ›

Chicago’s elite Grace restaurant has been shuttered for nearly a year, but the acrimony surrounding its implosion continues to be played out in Illinois courts.

Grace closed abruptly in late 2017 amid a dispute between its star chef and owner, who is now suing the chef and former manager/sommelier for tortuous interference and breach of fiduciary duty.

Michael Olszewski, who opened the Randolph Street hot spot with Curtis Duffy and Michael Muser in 2013, claims Duffy and Muser worked at events in far-flung locations around the globe outside of their employment with Grace, ordered and shipped food on the restaurant’s accounts for these events without his permission or compensation to the business, according to the complaint filed in Cook County Circuit Court.

Olszewski’s suit also claims Duffy and Muser “hatched a scheme” to solicit Grace’s employees to leave the restaurant and thereby force its temporary closure, resulting in lost profits and severe damage to business expectancies. The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the harm caused by Duffy and Muser’s “egregious misconduct.”

Duffy’s culinary skills earned Grace three Michelin stars, making it one of only two Chicago restaurants to gain that distinction. Before the establishment closed, Duffy and Muser tried unsuccessfully to buy it from Olszewski. He accused Duffy and Muser of coming and going from Grace as they pleased, in Muser’s case taking spontaneous and unapproved vacations, with increasing frequency. Continue reading ›

The primary laws that govern the disclosures to shareholders and the marketplace include the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the rules adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”).  These laws have come subject to scrutiny in the Camping World Holdings, Inc. who suffered financial losses in excess of $100,000 due to a failure to disclose.  Some of their executives have been charged with failing to disclose material information during the Class Period, violating federal securities laws.

Generally speaking, causes of action have been interpreted by the federal courts to specifically set forth in the statutes and to address claims brought as class actions.  These types of claims are often brought forward and against the corporation, its directors and officers, purchasers and sellers of securities, persons otherwise having a duty to investors who participate in the alleged disclosure violation.  Sometimes accountants and underwriters and persons required to make public filings with the SEC.  The history behind it is entrenched in common law notions of disclosure claims such as fraud and negligent misrepresentation. Continue reading ›

There’s no doubt that self-driving cars will be the next big thing in the automobile industry, which is why Google got so upset when a former employee allegedly took trade secrets regarding their self-driving technology to a competitor.

Anthony Levandowski claims he has been working on technology for driverless automobiles since he was in college. He entered a self-driving motorcycle into the Pentagon’s first competition for driverless vehicles in 2004, when he was still a graduate student at the University of California in Berkeley.

In 2007, Levandowski started working for Google on their maps program. When Google gave the go-ahead to start experimenting with self-driving automobiles, Levandowski was one of the first people chosen for the team.

Levandowski left Google early in 2016 to start his own business, a driverless truck company named Otto. That company was bought by Uber, at which point Levandowski became the vice president in charge of Uber’s driverless vehicle project. Continue reading ›

Before now, if an organization had its trade secrets stolen, its only recourse was usually to bring an action against the perpetrator in state court under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which was adopted by most states to provide a uniform civil remedy for trade secret theft, or under state criminal laws. The only federal protection for trade secrets was criminal sanction under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996. That changed this May, when President Obama signed into law the Defend Trade Secrets Act, which gives owners of trade secrets a new federal civil cause of action for misappropriation of their proprietary information. The law is intended to provide an alternative to the current patchwork of state laws governing the issue, but not replace them; unlike the federal Copyright Act, for instance, DTSA does not pre-empt state law.

DTSA allows a plaintiff to seek relief in federal court for misappropriation of trade secrets “by improper means” related to a product or service in interstate or foreign commerce. Improper means is defined as theft, robbery, misrepresentation, espionage, or breach of a duty to maintain secrecy. The law establishes civil remedies such as injunctions and damages for actual loss and unjust enrichment, or a “reasonable” royalty where an injunction is not feasible. If a trade secret is “willfully or maliciously” misappropriated, damages may be doubled. Trade secrets are broadly defined to include all forms and types of information that the owner has taken reasonable measures to keep secret, and which derive independent, actual or potential economic value from being unknown to the public. Continue reading ›

Root Consulting Inc. v. William Insull, 2016 WL 806556 (N.D. Ill., March 2, 2016)

An officer and shareholder of a closely held corporation has a fiduciary duty not to compete with the company even if he is forced out of the organization.

William I. was sued by Root Consulting Inc. and fellow shareholders for breach of fiduciary duty after he formed a competing company and solicited business from Root customers, while still a vice president and shareholder of Root (Root Consulting Inc. v. William Insull (2016 WL 806556)). Root is an Illinois-based information technology company with operations in Illinois and Texas; William I. is a Texas resident. William I. claimed his employment ended in July 2013 when he was “frozen out” (or constructively terminated) by the other shareholders, and therefore he had no fiduciary duty to refrain from competition. However, U.S. District Judge Robert Blakey found that he remained vice president and 47.5% shareholder until February of 2014, and that he continued to do work for Root after his alleged termination date.

Under Illinois law, corporate officers owe a fiduciary duty to their corporation and to its shareholders and may not enrich themselves at the expense of the corporation. Under the “corporate opportunity” doctrine, a fiduciary cannot take personal advantage of business opportunities that arise from and rightfully belong to the corporation. The officer’s resignation does not relieve him of liability if he acquired the opportunity before his employment ended. Continue reading ›

Our Chicago business dispute lawyers have extensive experience prosecuting and defending intellectual property, copyright, trademark, partner disputes and complex business lawsuits.

 

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NPR reports:

At the University of Tennessee Tuesday, 16 of the university’s head coaches held a rare joint press conference. They defended the university in the wake of a Title IX federal sexual assault lawsuit. ..

The press conference was a rare sight. All of the University of Tennessee’s head athletic coaches – including football, baseball, diving and soccer – sitting on a stage, telling reporters that UT is not such a bad place. Robert Patrick coaches women’s volleyball at the Southeastern Conference school.

 

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